Written by CaptainSausage

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image for Why do the French refuse to adopt the foot? The standard foot gets remeasured to check this ruler is ok

It is a question which has confused generations. Why do the French insist on continuing to use their strange outdated measurements such as the kilometre, the gram and the snail?

It seems to be arrogance which prevents them from adopting the British Imperial System, with its far more logical conversions - 12 barleycorns to the hand, 3 hands to the foot, 3 feet to the yard, and 1760 yards to the mile. What could be simpler?

The same is true of weights and other measures. With a standard 16 ounces to the pound, 14 pounds to the stone, and 142.6 stones to the tonne, it is something any simpleton can get their head around.

British measurements were standardised in 1718, when George I had his shoes stolen by the British Imperial Museum, who wanted to measure them. Eventually the King got his shoes back, but not before the museum were able to make a metal bar which would become the "standard foot". This is still used today to calibrate rulers manufactured throughout the British Empire - although Britain has only one remaining ruler factory, in Dorking.

While the British were organising sensible measurements based on the monarch's extremities, the French were fighting amongst themselves about how many snails there were to the mouthful - both were standard measures in pre-revolutionary France. It was only when they had killed their King that they realised they had no more standard measure for length. Previously it had been based on the King's inner thigh. Eventually they came up with the metre - defined as the height from which a snail could be dropped onto a cheese without breaking its shell.

The metre and the metre-ic system have since conquered most of the non-English speaking world, mainly due to French people's uncanny ability to learn other languages. Native English speakers are unable to do this, and therefore cannot persuade other countries to adopt the clearly more sensible British Imperial System.

But perhaps it is time to stop arguing about which measurements are better - the pint or the wine bottle; the inch or the moustache; the mile or l'âne fatigue (the distance it takes to tire a donkey by chasing it). As long as there are books of conversion tables available in all good retailers, we will all happily go out and buy them.

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